NewburyportNews.com, Newburyport, MA

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August 21, 2013

Asian technique produces creamy, cool side salad

Have you noticed how big and bold and robust salads have become? It’s as though salads no longer can be content to be on the side and complement the rest of the meal.

Most recipes these days seem to insist the salad be the meal. Which can be nice, particularly in the heat of summer. But sometimes a salad needs to play another role. Sometimes it just needs to help us appreciate the other foods. This is what I was thinking as I considered what to pair with a recent dinner of pulled pork bathed in a vinegary-peppery sauce.

I didn’t want a big, bold salad that would compete with the pork. I wanted a cool and refreshing salad that would serve as a counterpoint to the barbecue.

I’d recently seen a salad of cucumber and cold cooked chicken bathed in sour cream. It seemed nice — and a perfect contrast to the pork. But again, I didn’t need more protein.

So I decided to deconstruct it back to side salad status, mostly by removing the chicken. But I also decided it needed a better texture. Raw cucumber straight up tends to be watery. And water does nasty things to thick and creamy dressings. I needed to get rid of the water.

To do this, I borrowed a trick from Japanese slaws that involves salting thinly sliced vegetables, then gently pressing them to remove water. Once dressed, these pressed salads have a more satisfying texture and won’t dilute the other flavors. It worked perfectly for this cucumber salad, leaving the sour cream dressing rich and creamy.

PRESSED CUCUMBER SALAD WITH SOUR CREAM

The trick to this salad is slicing everything as thinly as possible. A mandoline is best, but a food processor fitted with the slicing blade will work, too.

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